DNA Day 2018 - Celebrating Genomics through Awareness

5 Mins Read


Yong Wei Shian
CEO at Advanx Health

Genomics now provides a powerful lens for use in various areas - from medical decisions to food safety, to ancestry.

The Human Genome Project began in 1990 with the aim of mapping the whole structure of the human genome and sequencing it. In 25th April 2003, the completion of Human Genome Project was declared, and April 2018 will mark the 15th anniversary of the completion.

Whether you realize it or not, many parts of our daily lives are influenced by genomic information and genomic technologies. Genomics now provides a powerful lens for use in various areas - from medical decisions to food safety, to ancestry. But still, the awareness about genomics is still in its infancy, some people doubt the accuracy of genomics.

Ok, so what are genes?

A gene is the basic physical and functional unit of heredity. Genes, which are made up of DNA, act as instructions to make molecules called proteins.

Every person has two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent. Most genes are the same in all people, but a small number of genes (less than 1% of the total) are slightly different between people. Alleles are forms of the same gene with small differences in their sequence of DNA bases. These small differences contribute to each person’s unique physical features.

In layman term, gene carries information that is unique to each of us that makes us different from one another.

DNA Sequencing is becoming a lot cheaper and faster!

DNA sequencing

30 years ago, there would have been no question about the price of genome sequencing, since the concept has not existed yet. In 2011, Steve Jobs had his DNA sequenced for $100k to fight cancer, which at that time this was not affordable for most of the people on the planet.

With the advancement of technology, scientists can now read the order of six billion individual building blocks contained in our genome in about a day and for about $1000. The leap in technology will further enhance remarkable genomics-based advances in medicine, agriculture, forensics, and our understanding of evolution. You can read here for more information.

Then, why should I care? How could genome sequencing impact my life?

In the previous centuries, healthcare focused mainly on working out generalized solutions with which the biggest ratio of ill people could be treated, which is "one-size-fits-all" method. With the refinement of diagnostic tools, the detection of viruses or bacteria, cheaper genome sequencing and big data, healthcare has been going through sweeping changes since the start of the last century. The experience-based and somewhat “trial-and-error” approach of medicine made place for evidence-based precision medicine.

In short, a personalized healthcare solution that is tailor made for us will be available in the future. Thanks to advancement in genome sequencing, big data and deep learning, it becomes possible to get down even more deeply into the roots of diseases and treatments.

But bear in mind, DNA doesn't tell you a definitive answer. It might tell you based on your gene and family history, you have a higher risk of getting breast cancer, but it doesn't guarantee that you will get it in the future. DNA loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger. With this piece of information, you can do breast self-check regularly, go for screening mammogram according to your genetic counsellor's suggestion and change your lifestyle to reduce the risk.

What could I learn from my own DNA?

Scientists have found out quite a number of information from our DNA. Of course, a lot more research have to be done to understand DNA deeply. Here, I will list down 3 that are promising at the moment.

1. Drug Sensitivity

drugs

DNA test can potentially help you and your doctor personalize your treatment by selecting the most appropriate medications based on how your body metabolizes drugs, and the doses that may work best for you. As a consequence, your physician could improve your health outcomes, reduce the risk of side effects and you could also save a significant amount of money by avoiding ineffective medications.

2. Cancer Risk

According to Cancer Research Malaysia, 1 in 4 Malaysians is affected by cancer. For example, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women globally. In Malaysia, the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer is expected to double in the next decade.

According to a research conducted, 1 in 20 Malaysians develops breast cancer due to inheriting the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. In another completed research showing that 1 in 9 ovarian cancers may be due to inherited alterations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Once again, DNA test doesn't give you a definitive answer that you will get in the future but is a piece of information that empowers you to take charge of your health, by doing regular checkup and lifestyle changes to lower the risk.

3. Nutrition & Wellness Management

eat well

If you are a coffee drinker, you might want to find out are you a slow caffeine metabolizer or fast from your DNA. Studies have shown that if you are a slow metabolizer, you are likely to experience symptoms like increased blood pressure, disrupted sleep, stomach pain etc.

DNA test can also tells you about your vitamin deficiency, sensitivity towards gluten and salt, glucose balance and effectiveness towards different diet. If you want to know how to eat right or managing your own nutrition and diet plan, you can potentially find out whether you are better with low-fat diet or low carb diet based on your DNA.

What future lies ahead with personal genomics?

While we have no impact on what we inherit from our ancestor (although the CRISPR genome editing method might bring some changes there in the future), lifestyle and actively knowing our body depends on our decision. We can improve our health with data, feedback from healthcare professionals and good technologies.

The more we learn from our genome, the more precautions we can take to prevent diseases or catch them as soon as possible (early detection). In Advanx Health, we aim to make personal genomics available for the mass, not only letting you know more about yourself, but also to bring significant progress to local research on precision medicine or finding a cure for cancer with more genomic data.

In order to transform current reactive healthcare into a personalized and preventive healthcare, personal genomics and precision medicine are the way to go.

Today, we celebrate genomics through awareness.

Discover Your DNA.

Learn more about how your genes can influence the way you live your life.

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